Rena Rosen was born with a cleft lip and palate and craniosynostosis, which often left her feeling different from other kids. As she grew up, she became the victim of mocking and bullying, resulting in low self-esteem. Then, she realized that in order to feel beautiful, it would need to come from the inside.
Since discovering this, Rena has spent much of her adult life advocating for inclusivity and “the art of kindness“. She has written a book and dedicated her life to encouraging kids to get to know each other, even if they look different from one another.
In an essay, Rena says,
“When I was a kid, my family treated me like anyone else. I went to day school from the time I was in kindergarten through the eighth grade, so I was with the same peers for eight years of my life.
It was when I went outside of my comfort zone to places like the playground, the grocery store or somewhere in public that kids would stare and ask questions or make comments like, ‘What’s wrong with your nose? Why does your face look smooshed? What happened to you?'”
“I had about a dozen surgeries from the time I was a week old until I was in college. A lot of it was to fix the cleft lip and cleft palate.
Doctors are often trying to help kids look as close to ‘normal’ as they can, even though there is no normal. There were lots of questions about: Did we want to have my eyes be surgically made closer together? Did we want my ears to be pinned back a bit so they looked more symmetrical?”
She battled with trying to fit in, and feel “normal” compared to her peers. Rena said that she would invest in clothes and accessories to help distract from her face so she’d feel prettier. That, combined with the fact that she never saw anyone who looked like her in the media, left her empty. She ultimately learned that no one was going to make her feel beautiful but herself.
“Now that I’ve come to terms with my own beauty and have realized there is not just one definition of perfection, I’m able to live authentically and not care as much about what people see on the outside because I know when they get to know me, they’re going to see who I am”
Now, Rena spends her time encouraging people to accept and get to know one another. She offers support to kids with disabilities and deformities, and always advocates for kindness.
“If you see someone who looks different, compliment them first and then enter into a conversation. It opens up dialogue. Kindness is the one thing that bonds us all together and it’s so easy. It really makes a huge difference and it settles everyone’s nerves.”
Rena’s purpose and work is changing lives one person at a time. Her simple message of kindness is one everyone can get behind and can ultimately make positive differences in so many people’s lives.
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